Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Mason moved to Baltimore with his parents and grew up here before going to school at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He participated in Beautiful Walls for about two years, first as an apprentice, then as an artist, before earning an MFA from MICA's Hoffberger School of Painting in 1979. A tenor saxophonist as well as a painter, Mason was interested in music, Egyptology, literature, and the African-American experience, which can be seen in his work around the city. "He was passionate about all of those things because he was a passionate person," Deborah Mason says. "And he studied for his own enjoyment all of those things. So if he was inspired by some reading or some historical event, that would be what would inspire him to paint."